New York Loosens Gun Restrictions On Churches

Religious advocates who spoke with the Daily Caller News Foundation expressed concerns regarding the recent amendment made to New York’s concealed carry law, which aimed to grant houses of worship greater autonomy in safeguarding themselves. According to these advocates, the revised law falls short of providing sufficient protection for religious communities.

Earlier this month, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) signed the state’s 2024 budget into law, which included amendments to the Concealed Carry Improvement Act. The revisions exempted armed individuals responsible for security at places of worship from the prohibition on carrying firearms inside such establishments. 

However, religious advocates and experts argue that the amended law offers inadequate protection for churches in the face of increasing hatred. They point to the ambiguous language in the legislation, which makes it unclear how churches can effectively defend themselves.

According to Tzvi Waldman, the head of the NYS Jewish Gun Club, an organization providing security training for houses of worship, the modifications to the law were not specifically implemented with the objective of safeguarding his faith community.

Waldman said, “They didn’t come in thinking, ‘What can we do to make the community safer, to make people safer,’ because if they were, they would have discussed it with us to try to figure out what we really need, and none of that happened.”

According to Amy Swearer, a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation’s Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, the amendments made to New York’s law are insufficient and fail to consider the operational dynamics of religious communities. Swearer expressed the view that the changes were “not near enough” to effectively address the needs and concerns of religious communities.

According to a report by the Family Research Council, nearly 70 churches have been subjected to attacks in the initial three months of 2023. The overturning of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court in June 2022 triggered a series of assaults on churches, ranging from vandalism to arson. In some instances, church members were also targeted and physically assaulted.

Furthermore, recent hate crime statistics from the FBI indicate an alarming increase in antisemitism. In 2021, there were 814 reported incidents of anti-Jewish acts, reflecting a concerning upward trend.

Swearer said, “This really doesn’t do a whole lot for many houses of worship. You have people inside those churches for various church programs or functions, daycares or pastors, and secretaries and choir rehearsals. Those are all occurring throughout the week, and even if they can have armed private security during, you know, one or two hours on Sunday, that doesn’t take care of the rest of the week.”